Planet of the eXtreme Programmers, 10th Anniv. Edition

Remember XP? Pair Programming? Onsite customers? Sure, most of that is passe now, but we have new fads that are just as silly (Scrum, etc). So, in a spirit of humor and nostalgia, I am reposting my original story, Planet of the XPers.

Note, this is SUPPOSED to be humorous, and of COURSE, there is absolutely NO ACTUAL RELATION TO ANY REAL PERSON OR ENTITY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED BY THIS STORY. Trust me 🙂


A large starship streaks slowly across the sky. It appears to look like a
large conference table. Its’ enormous engines, powered by huge tanks of coffee
as the oxidizer, and prodigous amounts of chocolate donuts as the fuel seem to
fill the sky with their pungent aroma.

On the back can be seen a large bumper sticker that reads: “This baby turns
on a dime”

Dragged in by the powerful tractor beam, (not to mention the smell of Coffee
and Donuts), Ford and Arthur struggle helplessly as they draw closer to the
evil ship.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” Says Ford.
“Me too!” screams Arthur. “I’ve heard theres lots of XP activity in this

As they arrive on the shuttle deck, they are greeted by a gruff individual
who seems to be armed with  a futuristic laser weapon, adorned with flashing red and green lights.His badge reads “Uncle Brad”.

“Have you been programming in pairs?” asks the guard, gruffly.

“Ummmm” says Ford.
“Well….” says Arthur.

“We were just stopping in for a drink!” says Arthur.
“Or two” hissed Ford.

“I mean coffee” yelped Arthur.
“And donuts!” yelled Ford.

“Are you guys from Marketing?” asked the guard, gruffly.

“Umm….” says Ford.
“Well…” says Arthur.

“We’re customers!” says Ford. “See, and we need some donuts..and coffee”

“Terrific!” said Uncle Brad.

“We’ve been looking for customers. We used to have an on site customer, but
she…” and his voice trailed off.

“She what?” asked Arthur nervously.

“Oh nothing,” said Brad as he led them thru the ship.

They passed a large room filled with computers. In the center was a
conference table, where people were throwing around blank 3×5 cards at each
other, while nodding furiously.

There were lots of 3×5 cards stuck to the wall as well, but most of them
were blank, except some had large words on them like “Planet”, “Engine” and

“Errrm…who are they, and what are they doing?” asked Arthur.
“That’s our IT department.” said Brad proudly. “They’re playing the Planning

“What sort of Planning are they working on?” asked Ford.

“Oh, a Flight Control System”, said Brad.

“Ah what?” asked Ford and Arthur together, spitting coffee out their noses.

“FCS. You know. Flight Control System”, said Brad.

“We know what it is, but hasn’t this ship already got one?” said Ford.

“Errrr…no..” said Brad.

“I see…” said Ford.

“You see it’s all very complicated.” said Brad. “It’s supposed to be a test.
To see if we can build a flight control system. Ground control has already
launched us on what they call a “ballistic trajectory.” Our job is to try to
design a flight control system before we crash into any nearby planets” said
Brad nervously.

“Are you … sure.. it’s a test?” asked Ford slowly.

“What else could it be?” asked Brad.

“An exit strategy?” whispered Arthur into Ford’s ear.

“Umm, so what do you do around here?” said Ford trying to change the

“Oh, I coach the IT staff” said Brad, fingering his weapon proudly.

“I make sure they program in pairs. Bjork always said we should do it in

“Bjork?” asked Arthur.
“Bjork?” asked Ford.

“Bjork. Curt Bjork. The founder of our Methodology” said Brad reverently.
Then he launched into his tale: “For many generations, our IT staff wandered
lost in the cubicle prarie. They had been tasked to write a FCS, but after
trying for many years, they had absolutely nothing to show for it. After
pulling some strings with our financial people, L.Ron was able to hire Bjork
to teach us The Way of XP!” finished Brad triumpantly.

“Who’s L.Ron?” asked Arthur.

“He’s our Commodore” said Brad proudly, “… and he’s an OXP Level 6!”

“OXP?” said Ford, with difficulty.

“Operating XP-er. We used to call him an Operating Thetan, but we had to
change the name after the Dyanetix legal dept sent us a nasty letter,” said
Brad grimacing at the thought of the evil lawyers from Dyanetix.

“L. Ron, I want you to meet our new customers,” said Brad, wagging his tail
as he approached his master. “I found them in the hanger deck.”

“Hi!” said Arthur.
“Hi!” said Ford.

“Nice to meet you. I’m L. Ron. Care for a donut?” said L. Ron.

“Sure” said Ford and Arthur as they munched happily.

“I love the ones with extra sprinkles!” says L.Ron with a gleam in his eye.

“So show us your FCS software” said Arthur, munching happily on the glazed
sugar bomb.

L.Ron leads them over to a Sun workstation, with a really cool fog machine
and mood lighting setup nearby, and then demonstrates what appears to be a
game of Centipede running under X-Windows.

“It looks like Centipede” said Arthur.

“It IS Centipede” said L.Ron proudly. “But not just any centipede. Why,
first we wrote a 68020 emulator to emulate the hardware. Then we thought,
why just steal the ROM’s? Why not rewrite the game in FORTH? So we wrote it
in forth running emulated on the virtual arcade hardware under the Sun OS.
That was our earliest experience with what we later found out was called
‘Refactoring’ ” continued L. Ron.

“You see,” said L.Ron. “We weren’t ALWAYS working on an FCS. First we were
working on a payroll system. But the ship had one already. We almost
finished though. Got 30% of the way there. Frankly I’d call it a complete
success. But then the evil Political Machinators came down from the  Planet
DaimlerZoltar-GmbH. They unplugged the payroll system and terminated the budget.
It’s a good thing I had my tennis shoes on that day, lemme tell ya. So then
we thought we’d work on a series of arcade games for the in flight
entertainment system. But then our old people on the ship started talking
about this Ballistic Trajectory legend, and we thought we’d try our hand at
an FCS.” continued L.Ron.

“It was starting work on the FCS that led us to discover our Methodology”
said Brad.

“Methodology?” said Arthur.
“Methodology?” asked Ford.

“Yes. See, we had a problem. We had to be able to write a working FCS, but
none of us knew anything at all about the problem domain! And what’s worse,
this ship has no documentation. Zippo. So for many years we wandered lost in
the cubicle prarie. And then it hit me. I said to myself, ‘We have no one
here with knowledge of the problem domain. We have no documentation… And
our IT staff is strictly newbies. What we really need to save us is a
Methodology!” concluded L. Ron.

“A methodology” swooned Brad.
“A methodology” sang the IT staff in Chorus.

Then they all did the XP methodology Song and Dance like something from
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and plunked back in their seats, (in pairs)
with a bang.

“to be continued….”

About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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1 Response to Planet of the eXtreme Programmers, 10th Anniv. Edition

  1. John says:

    I’m in QA and I’ve got to wait seven sprints until I’m delivered the first testable feature. Some will say that ‘they’re doing Agile wrong’, while others will say ‘this project is not suitable for Agile’. While they argue about it and nothing gets developed, I read books. I just finished the last chapter of The Restaurant At The End of The Universe and the next thing I read was the article above. Perfect. Keep up the good work.

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